CMO 100

The importance of pairing data with a human touch

By Business & Finance
27 February 2023

The evolution of marketing over the last decade has been nothing short of remarkable. In my 25 years working in the business, the craft has become almost unrecognisable.

By Cathal Deavy, Customer Director — Finance & Marketing, Tesco Ireland.

What has remained is held dear and holds true — marketing relies on a deep understanding of human nature and consumer and customer behaviour.

Business to consumer relationships

Harnessing data has allowed us to get even closer to those people we serve, to understand what they do minute-to-minute, day-to-day and week to week. It can also help us learn what is in our human nature that leads us to make certain decisions. 

Data sharing is a hot topic and we continue to learn how best to manage it — not neccessarily in terms of the technical and legal aspects (warehousing, analysing, data protection etc.) — but more around how we engage in a meaningful ‘contract’ with the consumers and customers who provide their personal data to us marketeers. 

This is a two-way relationship that is absolutely built on trust – the relationships we create have to have two-way benefits. 

For marketeers customer data is a valuable asset, and should always be used responsibly. The quantity and quality of data, when properly analysed, allows us to do lots of things.

Cathal Deavy of Tesco Ireland

It facilitates customer segmentation and better targeting through both digital and ‘traditional’ media channels which drives efficiency. It also allows us to better understand the cause and effect of our activities. The much quoted maxim, “Half my advertising spend is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half” is redundant in the world of Performance Marketing.

Quantity and quality control

The real challenge is actually knowing when to stop. When the data-rich journey started for me over 10 years ago the idea was that we could define a ‘target of one’ — a lovely idea but practically impossible.

Where we are today is ‘mass personalisation’ whereby we can segment consumers in identifiable audiences and target activity and communications that are most relevant to that group. The number of groups depends on the resource available — analysts and bespoke content creators to name but two. This is a fascinating world to be in and very exciting for marketeers today.

Now, let’s look at the other side of that ‘contract’. If managed incorrectly this becomes an avalanche of messages, landing on consumers with every device they pick-up, every screen they see and every message alert they hear — this is consumer hell!

Marketeers have a huge responsibility on two fronts:

Firstly, respect the lives of consumers by managing the quantity of messages. My colleague calls this “air-traffic control.”

Secondly, quality control. Content must be relevant, interesting, engaging and timely to name but a few.

Specifically, is the consumer at the heart of the message? Is it showing enough understanding of the person in receipt and does it show enough empathy? Remember brand owners, it’s not about you.

Understanding the customer

If we can personalise for recipients, then we can uphold our part of the contract by showing consumers that we do understand them, and we can help them with whatever product or service we are providing. It once again comes back to quality and quantity. 

We see something similar every week in Tesco: 

The introduction of new technology for a better customer experience at checkout (self-scan and Scan As You Shop) have certainly worked in terms of a speedy exit from the store. What it has done is brought even greater focus to the people interaction when it happens i.e. even more helpful and even more friendly — there’s always time for a chat.

We have also seen this in our home delivery channel. Although a more modern way to shop and it is heavily technology-driven, the relationship between the delivery driver and customer is the most engaging part of that journey — thankfully the customer feedback on my colleagues is overwhelmingly positive.  

Despite all of the technical and analytical capability that we have at our fingertips the real truths in marketing are:

First, to have the curiosity and deep understanding of consumers and customers. Second, that when we engage them in conversation, through whatever means, remember that the old rules of human interaction remain: respect, truth, engagement, balance and being attentive still apply.

About the author: Cathal Deavy is Customer Director — Finance & Marketing at Tesco Ireland.






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